leybourne grange | reporters, residents and removers

No other website has attempted to picture the sheer scale of Leybourne Grange. Itís 94 hectares of landscaped gardens; trees in formal lines, ex-cricket and football grounds, trimmed bushes, meandering paths and sweeping roadways. The landscaping was obviously the original gardens of the Manor House, around which Leybourne Grange was based and grew.

In 1886, the Idiot's Act was passed. This allowed local authorities to raise money for the provision of Idiot's Colonies. Whilst the asylums were catering for the mentally ill, the Idiot's Act founded homes for the mentally disabled; the 'feeble minded' or 'idiots' of the time.

The requirements of the mentally disabled followed on for those of the mentally ill; sites away from major town centres were selected, landscaping, views and fresh air were high on the agenda, as were facilities such as a main hall, classrooms and sports areas. Sometimes the colonies were built up around an existing manor house, as was the case at Leybourne Grange.

We wondered around this vast expanse, half keeping an ear out for security. The grass was still being mown; the bushes were still being trimmed; and the police busied themselves training dogs. We quietly watched them leave before making our way further into the site.

Decommissioned in 1992, with the last patients leaving in 1996, the site had become dilapidated and vandalised. The bleak February day didnít help matters.